Nightfall explores the moods of the string body from dusky noir to incandescent ecstasy. The work relies heavily on harmonics, ricochet, barriolage (rapid back-and-forth between strings) as well as more extended string techniques. There are significant solos for the first violin and cello, but each of the parts contains moments of virtuosity.
The piece opens with the violas pizzicato, playing an increasingly complex rhythmic cell. One by one, the other instruments join in and achieve a diabolical climax that introduces the first theme, a rising figure that slithers among the four violin parts. The central section begins timidly but opens into a full-blown romantic melody. The piece concludes with a recapitulation of the opening music and a bracing coda.
Nightfall may be performed an ensemble of as few as 10 players or by a well-balanced string orchestra.